Sufjan Stevens has been posting a series of notes online in recent weeks addressing the American political situation through the lens of his Christian worldview. First he offered up the Ten Commandments as a universal standard for morality, then he suggested that “Christ would be ashamed” of President Trump’s immigration policies. Now he has shared a third message debunking the concept of a Christian nation. Sufjan writes — quite accurately, I’d argue — that God “has no political boundary.” He then impels his readers to do away with “corrupt theological fear-mongering,” to “get real and get right with God,” and to live a lifestyle in line with Jesus Christ. He seems to be mainly addressing Christians and so-called Christians who are rallying around a nationalistic version of Christianity that doesn’t line up with the Bible or the US Constitution — one espoused by Donald Trump, a man who seems to be largely unfamiliar with both texts, in his inaugural address. Here is Sufjan’s full note:
You cannot pledge allegiance to a nation state and its flag in the name of God, for God has no political boundary. God is love, period. God is universal, nameless, faceless, and with no allegiance to anything other than love. A “Christian Nation” is absolutely heretical. Christ did not come into this world to become a modifier. Look what happened to the Holy Roman Empire. Jesus said you must hate your father and mother and love your enemies. This is not obtuse provocation, but a spiritual deployment of true identity, which no longer resides in skin color, nation, ideology, genealogy, name, people, places, and things, but in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all humankind, which is ruled by love at any cost. Love your neighbor as yourself. Christ’s words, and the example of his life and death — albeit strange a socially unsuccessful (he lived and died unpopular and in poverty) — were equally sublime and sacrificial. To gain access to true love and true self, you must die to yourself, to your family, to your heritage, to your narrow-minded ideology, your ego, your ill-conditioned consciousness, and your false identity. You must eradicate all the corrupt theological fear-mongering they preach from the pulpit and from behind the political podium. Get real and get right with God. Go in your closet and pray for your “enemies.” You must take up the cross and follow that narrow path of sacrifice and love and service. You must love your enemies, serve the poor, give everything away, and put yourself last. This goes against everything the world has taught you, and it goes against your instinct, and it most certainly goes against the laws of free enterprise and corporate interest. Money and power and governments are fraudulent and false gods. We must be in the world, not of the world. When Jesus Christ says, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s,” he acknowledges a necessary evil (and throws some shade), but he also compels us to participate honestly and responsibly and with righteousness and stewardship in a faulty and dysfunctional society even as we are called to be ideologically and socially dispossessed. We must acknowledge that the real substance of life has nothing to do with money or power or prestige or “greatness.” Your money and your power must be given away (as tax and tithe and service to others). To gain your life is to lose it. To lose your life is to gain it.
The life you live is not your own.
Give your life away.